12-Hour Non-State Parade, Cooper Gallery, DJCAD, 2019, Image by Sally Jubb @sallyjubbphotography
"Lovely Hallways (2019) reflects on the experience of mishearing the title of Neil Bartlett’s Love You Always (1990) when watching documentation of the work at the National Review of Live Art Archive. Bartlett is most associated with the NRLA for his role as Master of Ceremonies (MC), a position that assumed an ongoing responsibility of stewarding performers and audiences to the right places at the right time. As a flipside to the invisible labour, artist support and audience development contributed by Artistic Director, Nikki Millican; Bartlett’s MC appeared throughout the festival in the lobby, corridors and doorways as an intermediary and authority of the in-between– a drag character he describes as an ‘air hostess on speed’. The scheduled performance, Love You Always, is staged during Bartlett’s final year as MC: a hallways-ness interrupted by an always-ness. In the footage, we see people gathered in a dark room, and hear (/mishear) Bartlett announce the title as he stands in front of a giant, suspended, stone book, the words ‘Love You Always’ carved into its open-page spread. Beside him, a thin string of sand carries the duration of the performance, which ends with a thank you and applause."
Gordon would like to thank Julien Warren at the National Review of Live Art Archive, Bristol; Ainslie Roddick; Carrie Skinner; John Nicol; Carlton Studios; Annie Mather; in addition to the permanent and casual staff at Cooper Gallery for their continued generosity.
Gordon Douglas Lovely Hallways (2019) Commissioned Performance
Lovely Hallways (2019) reflects on the experience of mishearing the title of Neil Bartlett’s Love You Always (1990) when watching documentation of the work at the National Review of Live Art Archive. Bartlett is most associated with the NRLA for his role as Master of Ceremonies (MC), a position that assumed an ongoing responsibility of stewarding performers and audiences to the right places at the right time. As a flipside to the invisible labour, artist support and audience development contributed by Artistic Director, Nikki Millican; Bartlett’s MC appeared throughout the festival in the lobby, corridors and doorways as an intermediary and authority of the in-between – a drag character he describes as an ‘air hostess on speed’. The scheduled performance, Love You Always, is staged during Bartlett’s final year as MC: a hallways-ness interrupted by an always-ness. In the footage, we see people gathered in a dark room, and hear (/mishear) Bartlett announce the title as he stands in front of a giant, suspended, stone book, the words ‘Love You Always’ carved into its open-page spread. Beside him, a thin string of sand carries the duration of the performance, which ends with a thank you and applause.
Gordon would like to thank Julien Warren at the National Review of Live Art Archive, Bristol; Ainslie Roddick; Carrie Skinner; John Nicol; Carlton Studios; Annie Mather; in addition to the permanent and casual staff at Cooper Gallery for their continued generosity.
- Lovely Hallways (for 12-Hour Non-State Parade, Cooper Gallery, 2019) Lovely Hallways (2019) involved dressing up in an oversized harlequin costume, sitting on a drumstool behind a snare drum and cymbal for the duration of a 12-hour symposium, introducing speakers and panel discussions, and maintaining the smooth operation of the event by taking a very human approach to timekeeping responsibilities. I was positioned in the centre of the stage, with the hope that my comically exhausted appearance would phase between visibility and invisibility. Moments included speakers arguing back with me about their their allocated time and stating my timekeeping was censorship; acting as filler as we waited for our next performer by recounting everything I could remember about the architectural history of the narrowing hallway; and refraining from using the drum and cymbal to ba-dum-tss. Photo credit: Sally Jubb photography
FIELDWORK International Summer School, Shoulder-to-Shoulder, 28-30 June 2017. Co-programmed with Gordon Douglas and Cicely Farrer
The programme drew on the everyday production of art and politics in the contemporary multitude and invited practitioners from a variety of positions to consider these never ending performances. Shoulder-to-Shoulder was an opportunity to dislocate from the activity of individual practice and share new and existing methods of performance that can help us communally devise action within a political climate characterised by division and moralistic opposition.
Shoulder-to-Shoulder presented the first screening in the UK of Lynn Hershman Leeson’s film Tania Libre (2017), documenting renowned Cuban activist and performance artist Tania Bruguera’s experience following an 8-month house arrest in Cuba after her plan to re-stage her performance Tatlin’s Whisper #6 in Havana. Possessing a rare fluency in technologies as they evolve, Hershman Leeson is celebrated for her feminist art practice spanning five decades. Dmitry Vilensky, the founding member of performance collective Chto Delat (What is to be done?) came to the summer school from St Petersburg, Russia. Since 2003, Chto Delat have been producing projects that aim to merge political theory, art and activism. London-based artist Samson Kambalu, introduced his film-making approach, Nyau Cinema, through a new collaborative performance-lecture with Edinburgh-based composer and cellist Atzi Muramatsu. Kambalu’s work is autobiographical and approaches art as an arena for critical thought and sovereign activities. Wojciech Kosma collaborated with a working group towards the facilitation of an open, large group conversation. Always working with others, Kosma develops staged and sporadic performances that aim to collectively draw out and challenge group production of values. Ash Reid produced a role playing game (RPG)-inspired mixtape for communal car/train/bus journeys to Arbroath. Reid forms her research through public and private collaborative attempts at communicating beyond or around the boundaries of language. The mixtape preceded the summer school as part of an instigated carpool, through which participants were invited to organise shared transport.
For Wojciech Kosma’s contribution to Shoulder-to-Shoulder, organisers formed a working group with practitioners from around Scotland through an open invite for notes of interest. The working group consisted of [Phil Anderson, Kathryn Ashill, Marta Jalowska, Anna McLaughlin, P6, and Pernille Spence,] individuals with wide spanning interests including performance, psychology, theatre, music and geography amongst others. [...] The group attended a study day on 27 June that drew from the group’s experience and research into performance as a semi-‘rehearsal’ for 2 performed, open discussions throughout the summer school, and provide an opportunity to meet thinkers from different fields with vested interest in ideas of performance.
As the finale of the summer school, I hosted and facilitated a re-performance workshop for all attendants. The group was split into five smaller groups, self-selecting by the year they knew they were about to re-perform. When the group had divided, each sub-group was asked to devise re-performances of historically significant performance works from information given in selective dossiers. At the end of the workshop, we hosted a promenade style performance event around the ground of Hospitalfield with the groups performing their devised works to the rest of the participants. Re-performances included: Laurie Anderson, O Superman, 1981; Sanja Ivekovic, Triangle, 1979; Adrian Piper, Catalysis Series, 1972-73; Vito Acconci, Following Piece, 1969; and Richard Long, A Line Made by Walking, 1967 [pictured].
photo credit: Annie Crabtree
with Stefanie Cheong, James Harding, Jake Watts and Tess Vaughan
The Garden is Our Wall was a series of events I produced as part of the exhibitions programme at Intermedia. The gallery sits on the second floor of CCA, and throughout April and May 2015, it played host to four events devised in collaboration with four independent practitioners. Each event was developed in a partnership consisting of myself and one of the invited practitioners, and we had roughly a year to work on them. The events seem to have disappeared from the CCA online archive now, but for posterity they included (in order of appearance): a fan-fiction night with James Harding; a social drinks event with Stefanie Cheong; a screening and floor-turfed installation with Tess Vaughan; and a workshop on neighbourliness with Jake Watts. The conversations drew from the case of Planty Park Krakow, an early example of garden city urban planning, where the park famously replaced the city’s historic wall with a park. I didn’t necessarily want to pin the project down with this historical analogy and we certainly didn’t dwell on it, but I did want to speak with it to try and understand the drive to move from a physical defence to an ‘image-as-defence’.
Featuring collaborations with Stefanie Cheong, James Harding, Tess Vaughan and Jake Watts. A series of four events inviting collaboration from creative practitioners. The programme draws on authority within designed urban image, and the inherent civic responsibility of communal habitation.
The Garden is Our Wall is a series of four events inviting collaboration from creative practitioners: Stefanie Cheong, James Harding, Tess Vaughan, and Jake Watts. The conversations each originated from a discussion about the history of ‘Planty Park’, a 4km circular band of greenery which replaced Krakow’s historic city wall in the early 19th Century. The change is a very early example of the ‘garden city’ phenomenon, and can be seen as a shift towards the image-as-defence - one which acts as protection from cultural and international criticism. As well as interrogating the ideas of urban design, authority and civic duty, the conversations have also questioned what it means to use collective image as ‘defence’, and where responsibility might lie in curatorial and collaborative practices.
...‘Gordon is Our Wall’, a comically apt pastiche that kept rattling around in my head, became a phrase that seemed to capture that interface function that maintained and gave conceptual depth to the curatorial aspect of the project. The wall, the gate, and Gordon, all became flexible depending on the needs of the individuals and the territory they required. Thin films that abstracted and summarised the productivity of other partnerships, whilst directing individuals towards individuating themselves. Maybe it wasn’t a wall, but it was a gravity, or something that pulled satellites within this impossible vacuum. Drawing attention. A gravity which stemmed from the ability to expend energy.
In some ways, the prepaid card that I used as the promotional image for the project, felt like the only truly representative image generated by the project; or maybe it was the only image that served as document for the performance of sustaining this complicated network of production. It was the image of support, a comforting gesture that our decisions were right because they were funded. It was a semi-monitored tool that racked up expenses and packaged them for evaluation. It was the image of power, a private currency brought to every meeting. It was always only ever one, and therefore could only be walleted by one person.
I carried it, like I carried around the administrative duties of catching up with every partner. If invisible gravitational fields had something to do with it, then the card seemed to mask this vacuum– after all, the money that existed and was given to us didn’t really exist. Just digital numeracy. It was also a mask to the empty space occupying Intermedia that existed temporarily between the events. The conceptually airtight void, existing as an anti-rhythm between events, was a relatively frictive action in the context of the open-source policy. It was the subject of many emails between myself and the organisation, and a problematic that I will return to later.
I wondered if Elmgreen & Dragset had a joint bank account, if Chim↑Pom have a shared debit card? How about Guerrilla Girls?... Full blog post can be found here: http://www.cca-glasgow.com/blog/gordon-douglas-gordon-is-our-wall
Introduction-to-Performance is a course elective on performance art history that I devised with students of HND Contemporary Art Practice at Edinburgh College. The course borrows a theatre shortlisting method from Total Theatre Awards in order to evaluate and distill a longlist of 150 pre-selected performances into a group-generated list of 10 ‘good’ performances. Each week, members of the group are issued four works to independently research for the following week. Individuals return to share their four works to the rest of the group through storytelling, presentation or re-performance with one condition that they must not use supporting images. The individual chooses whether to discard or nominate the work for further discussion, at which point the work is, respectively, either dropped or designated to another member of the group for further research. The following week, the two discuss and argue the character, intent, craft and affect of the work, and decide together whether or not to nominate it. As the list distills itself, an increasing number of group members gain knowledge of the remaining material and are able to participate in the decision-oriented debates. As much as it is a performance art history course, it is also an exercise in how we process and police subjective value decisions as a group. The website was designed and coded by Ben Callaghan, an artist based in Edinburgh, as both an archive for what took place in the sessions and as a performance score so the course could be re-enacted.
2. Please describe your working context.
From 2008-2010, I was a student at Edinburgh’s Telford College (now Edinburgh College), a further education institution in the North-west of Edinburgh. I was studying the HND Contemporary Art Practice course, a course born out of HND Public Art, and designed by course leader, Alan Holligan in 2007. In 2016, I applied and was successful in assuming the position of Artist-in-Residence as part of the airETC... programme, an initiative inviting graduates of the course back for the reciprocal benefit of all parties involved. As well as successfully building rapport between succeeding year-groups of the course, the programme offers opportunities for professional development in the form of supported studio time and teaching experience. As part of the residency, I ran my own self-devised elective course, Introduction-to-Performance, in an attempt to: (1) provide a non-chronological approach to learning about performance art history; (2) expose students at an early point in their education to self-organised, morally diverse, and politically complicated practices; and (3) further understand the transference and development of mutually-held virtues within group decision-making. Like a lot of further education colleges, Edinburgh College was formed through the merger of previously existing local colleges (Stevenson, Jewel and Esk, and the already mentioned Telford), resulting in major cuts to preparation and contact time, in addition to the current national austerity measures placing teaching staff in precarious contracts. In response, staff uphold an active protest culture in association with The Educational Institute of Scotland, and are, at the time of publishing, on strike.
Just thought I'd make a preliminary post with details for everyone, and so that we have everything in the same place. I'll put this all in the Description section of the page which is almost invisible on the right hand column of the page:
METHOD: The method is adapted from a theatre shortlisting process used by Total Theatre Awards which I was part of in August. I have created a longlist of 150 performance works from the 1950s to now. Each week, we will individually take responsibility over researching 4 works from the list and research these specific pieces. I will co-ordinate this from my already admin-heavy practice. The following week, we will return to the group and share or re-perform the works we have researched for the benefit of the group, either mediating through voice, body, storytelling etc, no images though. It will then be the individuals decision whether the work they have researched is worth nominating for further discussion in the next round. Nominations can be either because the work is of outstanding quality or the individual is unsure about it. If a work is nominated I will delegate it to another member of the group to further research for a second point of view. I'll get to use my fancy spreadsheet for this. The next week, that person will return and share their take on the work, opening up a dialogue. If the work continues to be nominated, more people will be researching it and the dialogue will evolve into a deep debate around the values of that work. If a work is not nominated, it will not be discussed again. This process will continue until we reach a shortlist of 10 that best characterises the groups values around what constitutes excellent performance work.
RESEARCH: I'd really like for the research we conduct to be available to the public in future, so if possible can you copy/paste links to the fb page or to the tumblr I've made as well (introduction-to-performance.tumblr.com) (I can add you as users if you'd prefer this so you can upload directly to here). It'll be a continued resource not only for each other but for other people interested in performance - there currently is no fundamental performance index online that I have found, so we may generate a really useful tool.
RESEARCH TIPS: Some of the works in the list are not traditional performance art works, with personas, web presences, protest movements, lectures, organisations being included in the curriculum. For more contemporary works, it's sometimes best to search for the artist's website, then navigating through there to find the work. If you really struggle to find anything about the artwork please get in contact. I've gone through most of them, and there should be some sort of google hit when they're searched. Images very rarely give a holistic sense of a work, so it's a good idea to cross-reference researches with video and sound streaming websites ubuweb.com, vimeo, youtube, and soundcloud. There are often videos (either professionally produced or fan-generated) that can be really insightful for understanding the works. If there's a video online that's an hour or so, don't feel obliged to watch the entire thing - very frequently the documentation of them is not half as interesting as the live event. I should stress, this is not the case about all work though - the relationship between document and performance is an interesting balance. The History of performance art is essentially the History of performance art documentation.
- 16th November - 2:45 - 3:30 - Introductory Session
- 23rd November - 2 - 4pm
- 30th November - 2 - 4pm
- 7th December - 2 - 4pm
- 14th December - 2 - 4pm Christmas Break
- 11th January - 2 - 4pm
- 18th January - 2 - 4pm
- 25th January - 2 - 4pm
- 1st February - 2 - 4pm
- 8th February - Shortlisting Session
4pm is a loose marker, I understand a lot of you have other classes to attend, as the group sessions are primarily led through discussion and are aimed at developing language around performance art, classes may overrun/underrun. It's really important that we start at 2pm so that those of us that do need to leave can be as present to the conversation as possible.
PLACE: The MediaLab sounds like a very good option with sofas.
GUESTS: I've been speaking to a lot of performance artists, curators and educators about the class and some of them have seemed very interested in being involved. Some weeks we may have guests who will be expected to research and present four works from the list as well.
- website designed by Ben Callaghan
No School! Introduction-to-Performance Vol.2 Gordon Douglas
Saturday 11 & Sunday 12 May 11am—5pm
Booking required! Please book here via eventbrite.
Introduction-to-Performance Vol.2 is a discussion oriented, weekend long workshop looking at performance art histories from around the world. It has been devised by performance artist Gordon Douglas as part of No School!, Rhubaba’s learning programme inspired by desperate measures.
Drawing from the successes of the first volume with students of Edinburgh College, Introduction-to-Performance Vol.2 works from an entirely new curriculum– a longlist of 120 performances, actions, and protests that we will rigorously and playfully deconstruct. As well as being an opportunity to get reacquainted with the rich and diverse histories of performance, the weekend will be a platform to practice and gain confidence in speaking critically about performance in a fun environment.
Over the weekend, we’ll adopt a technique inspired by theatre shortlisting methods and popular education exercises, to debate the merits, ethics and values of performance works from the 1950s to present day. Through argument and conversation, we’ll collectively compile a shortlist of ‘good’ performance, showcased at an awards ceremony on the Sunday evening.
For documentation and information from the previous iteration, please visit www.introduction-to-performance.xyz.
Travelling Gallery is a custom-built gallery inside a bus that has travelled around Scotland bringing contemporary art to communities since 1978. Over the course of 2017-18, we worked together closely, thinking and talking about the pressures (and paradoxes) of performing resilience in the context of austerity in the Scottish public art sector. As well as being Travelling Gallery’s 40th Birthday celebrations, it was also a year that saw the organisation’s funding cut, threatening their capacity to deliver exhibitions and tour each year. Black Box Take Stock was built around these two, divergent futures: a future built around the collective will of the organisation’s diverse audience, ‘here’s to another 40 years!’, and a second, more pessimistic projection that saw the organisation succumb to austerity.
One really fruitful thing that came out of our conversations was this tendency in this climate for arts organisations to anthropomorphise themselves, to manufacture a psychology that matches their performance. Birthdays seemed like a way of talking about that through a subject matter that was almost universal. I commissioned a personalised birthday song from a professional birthday-telegram, Mike Collins, who we organised to meet us in various spots around Scotland. Locations included: council depots, gas stations, bus garages, and other parts of the infrastructure that host the gallery when it’s not ‘open to the public’. We had the bus do these manoeuvres around sharp corners whilst Mike and I followed it as if in some odd medieval procession our performance being filmed by the existing reversing camera. The driver, Andy, used to work in film and television, so he knew lots about tracking shots, and it felt like this really poetic way of temporarily bringing these two jobs together.
Well, I have a little tale to tell, In this minstrel’s song, About a Scania Omnidekka Chassis, 3.5 metres tall, 12 metres long, And it travels around the whole of Scotland, Brings contemporary art to communities To town centres, schools, community hubs, Care homes, prisons and libraries.
So Happy Birthday to the Big, Beautiful Bus, You’re 40 years old and we all agree, Some newspapers call you ‘Art in a Bus’ But you will always be the Travelling Gallery
Now Andy and Rab are the drivers, Jo does Education, and Claire does curate. Sheila and Vicky are the administrators, There’s been lots of volunteers since ’78. And Graycoll are the mechanics, who service the bus, The engine rumbles and the generator whirs I hear, There’s no air conditioning or heating inside, No uniforms, just hi-vis jackets that they wear.
So Happy Birthday to the Big, Beautiful Bus...
Now the gallery has existed in three separate buses, Over its 40 year history, The first bus was touring in ’78, And then a custom built vehicle in ’83, The current bus was built in 2007, The design and purpose of the gallery are still the same today, Well you don’t have to fix something that’s working, No need to re-invent the wheel anyway.
So Happy Birthday to the Big, Beautiful Bus...
And while they were installing the last exhibition, A pick-up truck reversed into the bus they say, Smashing the windscreen and the front bumper, So they took it to the garage and there it had to stay, And people came from far and wide to see, Engaging, inspiring and challenging art, And while the mechanics worked on the outside of the bus, The big beautiful bus stole our hearts.
So Happy Birthday to the Big, Beautiful Bus...
Events Series with Adam Lewis-Jacob, Jamie Kane, Emmie McLuskey and Helen Savage
Project-Books with Peter Amoore, Calum Bowden & Nathaniel Whitfield, Ben Callaghan, Seán Elder & Tako Taal, Cicely Farrer, Ella Hillström, Kati Kärki, Chus Martínez, Adam Lewis-Jacob with Liz Murphy & Francis McKee, Collette Rayner, Janina Sabaliauskaite & Jade Sweeting, Helen Savage and Jennie Temple.
photo credit: Jamie Kane
Hope you're all very well,
I'm just emailing to get in contact about the final in a series of events I have been organising with Platform, Glasgow, as part of the long-term research project Habits of the Co-existent. The event has been co-ordinated with Adam Lewis-Jacob, Jamie Kane, Emmie McLuskey and Helen Savage, and will take place on August 2nd, from 7-8:30pm in the Auditorium space, an expansive and modular theatre space in the Easterhouse venue. There will also be the launch of Project Book (3), with contributions from Peter Amoore, Calum Bowden & Nathaniel Whitfield, Chus Martínez, Amy Pickles and Jennie Temple. Please find all the relevant details below and really hope to see you there! It proves to be an exciting finale!
All the best, Gordon Douglas
Habits of the Co-existent (3) August 2nd, 7-8:30pm
Platform The Bridge 1000 Westerhouse Road Glasgow G34 9JW
Habits of the Co-existent (3) is the final in a series of events at Platform, Easterhouse co-ordinated by Gordon Douglas, Jamie Kane, Adam Lewis-Jacob, Emmie McLuskey and Helen Savage. The event occupies the auditorium, a large, multi-level, black cube used for a diverse range of dance, music and theatre events. The group will present performance works that they have been realising through public happenings with Platform over the last six months. Through the course of the project, events have offered a chance to reflect on the nuanced nature of collaboration, tolerance and co-existence when devising non-linear performance events. In HotC(3), the group have been in dialogue with technical staff, devising an automatic sound and lighting cue that solidifies the timings of the event, with live performances slipping in and out of spaces created and governed by stage effects.
Accompanying the event will be the launch of Project-Book (3) with contributions from Peter Amoore, Calum Bowden & Nathaniel Whitfield, Chus Martínez, Amy Pickles, and Jennie Temple. Project-Book (3) is concerned with: the body in non-centric organisational strategies; institutional habit-making; and power play in administrative rhythm.
Habits of the Co-existent is a curatorial-residential dialogue between: Gordon Douglas; The NewBridge Project, Newcastle; Edinburgh College, Granton; and Platform, Glasgow. The project focuses on the performativity, values and ideologies that we inherit and rehearse through shared working environments, social scenes and partnerships. What kinds of habit endure post-collaboration, and how might they be indicative of continuous and communally-performed modes of governance?
HotC could not exist without generous support from: The City of Edinburgh Council, ContemporaryArtETC..., Creative Scotland, Clyde Gateway, Edinburgh College, Edinburgh Visual Art Award, GlasgowLife, HMOProjects, The Introduction-to-Performance group, The NewBridge Project, Practice Makes Practice, amongst many more.
The report intends to provide an analysis of the organisation, The NewBridge Project, through gathering and organising responses collected in September 2016 as part of A Social Residency. The main body of text is orbited by digitised appendices, documents to various workshops that took place throughout the residency. The main text deconstructs the empty-yet-common appraisal of the NewBridge that it ‘filled a gap’, whilst drawing attention to the eccentric users of the building, suggesting that the organisation should look to the irregular studio practices of its studio-holders for internal criticism.
Dear Rebecca et. al at NewBridge,
Thank you for your patience!
Please find attached A Social Report, an attempt at criticism after falling for the charms of the organisation and the community that continue to labour it into being.
I hope it's helpful in some kind of way, I'm sure most of it is repeated matter that's already been established in conversations internally - but hopefully it was a useful act to consolidate it all in one place. The format is a larger piece of text in three sub-chapters: Anti-Social consultancy; The NewBridge Project Performs; and Overlooking the Gap. This is framed by appendixes, annotations, diagrams and digitised notes from various meetings.
As I've said it became quite a challenge to embody criticism due to the position I grew into, so I'm happy to talk about any of it if you have any questions.
Hope you're all very very very well, and speak soon I hope, Gordon xx
Absolument Présent, Marseille, 2018 (formerly known as: work-in-progress, Newcastle, 2018; (untitled), Glasgow 2017; Silent Take, Rotterdam, 2017; Work-in-Progress, Dundee 2016), various locations, (2016-ongoing)
This is an ongoing work that started with a residency with The NewBridge Project in 2016. Whilst I was there I became increasingly fascinated with the non-human, or excluded stakeholders who remained unvoiced during the organisation’s drive to future-proof in advance of their inevitable eviction. There were all these intuitive and non-normative uses of studio spaces, which I decided to think of as a kind of feedback process to the way in which the organisation was performing.
There were lots of studios that were also just used as storage spaces, which might have been down to the policy that NewBridge had to charge a flat rate for a studio irrespective of the size. There was one studio on the top floor which I thought captured this, and the corresponding frustration felt by studio-holders who actively produced contemporary art. The space belonged to a performance artist Kate Stobbart, who had through some weird internal myth-making process in the studios, pitched a remarkably large tent and then completely disappeared. No-one had seen her for three years. Other studio-holders found it totally exasperating because she was occupying this space which could be used for making art, but for me, it felt like some kind of protest and blockage to the smooth productivity of the studio facility. I was totally enthralled by it.
Once the residency was over I managed to get in contact with Kate, and together, we wrote up a contract for loaning the tent. I’m currently the custodian of this tent, but I also perform with it by slowly contorting myself into its carry bag and telling the story through a microphone. I gather dust from each of the performance venues which also gets thrown into the bag, some of which I inhale and cough out when I’m performing.
Dear Kate Stobbart,
My name is Gordon Douglas and I’m a curator and fellow performance artist currently based in Edinburgh and Glasgow. I had the opportunity to spend a month recently in Newcastle with The NewBridge Project as part of A Social Residency, a period of time where I was invited to integrate and operate within the given structures of the organisation. Unfortunately, our paths didn't cross but I stayed with Hannah Marsden and Toby Lloyd, both of whom spoke highly of you. Whilst there, I programmed events as part of Practice Makes Practice, as well as helping out with facilitating workshops with Jessie Jacobs, the development manager. It was a really challenging (and sometimes infuriating) experience working in a studio environment with such a dominant discourse on physical production, but I enjoyed my time there a great deal. Of course, I’m really sorry to hear the space is closing in April, although I do feel like the move can be an opportunity for the Project to shift its relatively settled logics, focuses and priorities.
Whilst I was there, I became incredibly fascinated with your studio space on the top floor. Not knowing anything about your practice (and actively trying to avoid learning about it so as not to alter my perceptions of your studio practice), I attempted to tiptoe into finding out about your relationship to the tent. Safe to say, I’ve built quite the mythology in my head about it and the value of its presence within The NewBridge Project. It seemed to calcify a lot of the research I was doing at the time into what values govern social structures like the art world, and what agency artworks have in producing the streams of flow between different nodes in an expansive and global network. Your tent presented something of a blockage to this, and somewhat unwillingly I’ve started to appreciate it as Art.
I’m writing to you today as I have been invited to perform during a '12-hour Action Group' at Cooper Gallery in Dundee as part of Of Other Spaces: Where does Gesture Become Event? a joint production with archives from Lynda Morris, exhibition design by Cullinan Richards, and works by Georgina Starr, Linder, Lucy McKenzie, Annabel Nicholson, Rose English and many more (the exhibition element is truly expansive and will expand over two distinct ‘chapters’). The '12-hour action group', taking place on the 3rd December, intends to examine the insights of feminism as one of the most volatile and motivated political movements that critiques cultural, political and economic iterations of power, and has speakers: Amelia Jones, Marina Vishmidt, Laura Mulvey, Sick Sick Sick, Kirsty Logan, James Bell amongst others. For the work I’m hoping to develop I would like to purchase, hire, or borrow your tent, performing with it, during the action-group, the mythology I have been piecing together from fragments of conversations. I would also be keen if you had any conditions regarding the hire, the purchase, or the representation of something which might or might not be Art. I would also be interested in evaluating the tent, and quantifying the presence it performed in the studios. Even if I was unable to pay this imaginary rate the tent might have accrued in its existence, it’s presence as an in-kind figure in Cooper Gallery’s budget might be an interesting prospect. I do not have any kind of production budget associated with the performance, but I am willing, depending on how involved you would like to be and how we might like to deal with money in this awkward contract, to split the fee they have offered.
In the meantime, here is some archive material from Annabel Nicolson's Concerning Ourselves, an exhibition held with students at Norwich School of Art in 1981. I think it bears a significant relationship to the studio tent:
<image from the Flat Time House archive http://flattimeho.org.uk/media/images/someone-else-can-clean-mess3/Concerning-Ourselves-22.jpg Press Release: http://www.luxonline.org.uk/articles/concerning_ourselves(1).html>
Let me know if you’d be interested. At any rate, I'd be really keen at some point to hold a dialogue with you around presence, disappearance, adoption of gesture, economies of value and economies of representation.
Hope you’re well, and all the best from a soggy, slightly more north section of land, Gordon
Each morning the sun rises on one side of the building, illuminating a glimmering tent- and then again as the sun sets. If the tent can perform its scale, its weight, its capacity to reflect light, then surely it can perform in the real estate market? That’s definitely how everyone seems to feel about it. It’s a set of stakes in the building, an empty space surrounded by surface, an image as occupation as it gathers dust. It’s Heidegger’s work-being and the unplucked world that it exists within. It’s Stanislawski’s presence, a body enacting only its ability to blockade. It’s Lee’s work of art’s world, and the potential for packing up and shipping out. Watch it enter into an our art world economies of reproduction and betray the live moment. It’s a fucking academic exercise ain’t it– a neglected deviance that defiantly serves the intention of a studio. It’s the performance of an ongoing commitment to practice, to the organisation, to the community. Untouched for three years, but a promise to come back. It’s like every art work ever so it’s not particularly special. I’m just obsessed with it as, it’s blockage.
- The following is the Editorial I wrote for CCA Glasgow's unpublished July/August brochure. The printing and distribution of the brochure was cancelled due to CCA’s closure (June 15th - October 13th 2018), following the GSA fire.
At the time of writing, I have had a desk for two weeks and it is almost two months until we publish. In advance, I’d like to apologise if I misconstrue or complicate things with different tenses, I’m writing from two different positions in time and I’ll attempt when redrafting to at least get things standardised to one of those positions. A similar temporal disjoint is happening on the clock in the office– it’s currently 10:13am but the hands are reading 5:02pm. It’s both the start of the working day and quitting time.
My name is Gordon Douglas and since May 2018, I have been embedded in CCA, working towards a ‘performative audit’ of their open source policy, a policy that allows the free and temporary use of CCA’s spaces and resources by the organisation’s wider community. An Opposites Programme is the realisation of this audit– a series of in-house workshops, discussions, public events and performances. The events seek to challenge or push against barriers of access, individual accountability, and economic precarity within the programme; auditing the policy through generating activity within it. The project has developed from a vested interest in collaborative working models, and the kinds of performance that take place in order to maintain these structures. Since 2015, I have been working closely in partnership with organisations of different scales towards looking at performativity and reproduction in collaborative and organisational practice. Drawing from the rich histories of institutional critique and queer performance, I’ve been co-ordinating events in pursuit of space to talk about the invisible nuances within collaboration. These partnerships have worked closely within (and sometimes against) drives to future-proof, and strategies for adapting within a deepeningly austere political-economic context.
Two months ago, I’m tapping fingers on a desk to the sounds of Total Leatherette inching into the office from the Creative Lab. I’m looking down at an open copy of Elias Canetti’s ‘Crowds and Power’. Fitting into less than a page, the sub-chapter ‘The Hands and the Birth of Objects’ talks through the repeated enactment of hand gestures until these gestures are crafted into being:
“The hand which scoops up water is the first vessel. The fingers of both hands intertwined are the first basket. [...] Before early [people] could create it [themselves], [their] hands and fingers had to enact it. [...] Words and objects are accordingly the emanations and products of a single unified experience: representation by means of the hands.” (Canetti, pg 254)
The recurrence of go-to actions is the rehearsal of an object, then a substitute technology that we use to streamline the process indefinitely. Within the process of enacting rhythms, there’s a promise of a future– a perception of the rhythm followed by its subsequent expectation. In the case of the social institution, protocol is one way of formalising these practices; policy is another.
Throughout the first two months developing An Opposites Programme, I’ve been thinking a lot about the performance of rhythms within the CCA, patterns that help administrate the multitude of activity welcomed and hosted through the open source policy. Steady punctuation like the exhibitions programme, marketing brochures, and operations meetings seem to be the most concrete of these rhythms. As part of a series of meetings to discuss the future of the organisation, we also looked at the micro-performances within the daily routines of all stakeholders. Alongside this, I’ve been attending meetings with open source partners, annotating governing documents, shadowing specific jobs, and speaking with previous contributors to the programme. These first two months have aimed to develop a clearer picture of what is happening, and how this technology is operating.
In an attempt to make sense of the simultaneity of performances, I’ve been developing alternative approaches to minute-taking: a bouquet of flowers that breathes and decays in the staff room; an anemometer that measures the movement of air within operations meetings; dust that gathers in underused parts of the building. The minutes are a way to annotate the goings on at the CCA, and seek to identify non-human relations and institutional byproducts as stakeholders. Rather than having the relationship to the temporal measurement of minutes in an hour, the etymology of the term minutes comes from the latin phrase ‘minuta scriptura’, literally translating as small writing. I want to think more about how ‘small writing’ might relate to ‘fine print’, overlooked or hidden stipulations in a contractual arrangement.
I sit back from the writing, look over to the clock. It still reads 5:02pm. The second hand caught ticking between 42 and 43.
photo credit: Max Crawford
photo credit: Max Crawford
photo credit: Max Crawford